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REJOICE IN RIYADH

By Frank Warren

IT WAS A glorious night in so many respects at the Kingdom Arena on Saturday night when the sport of boxing surged through a new and thrilling frontier.

The 5 vs 5 format has so much potential and ourselves and Matchroom ensured that the concept of team boxing launched in a big way with five genuinely cracking fights that will have kept eyes glued to the telly from start to finish.

Of course, I am naturally thrilled with the outcome, but mostly because I am so happy for the fighters we represent, rather than just getting one over our promotional counterparts.

It took two to make this so special and it was a pleasure to work in tandem with Eddie Hearn and his team to deliver such a magnificent fight card that will live long in the memory. We all worked very hard on it and all the fighters more than did their bit on the night.

I think we all agree that we want more of the same. Of course, I must also extend our gratitude to H.E. Turki and all his team at Riyadh Season for their continued support and vision for the sport of boxing. Riyadh has become the home for the biggest and best in boxing and long may this continue.

It has been a very productive fortnight for those flying the Queensberry flag, with a number of our fighters entering into very significant fights and coming out with notable titles that take their respective careers to the next level.

We have two new world champions in Anto Cacace and Nick Ball, who are now champions of IBF and WBA respectively. Mark Chamberlain and Willy Hutchinson now hold the coveted WBC Silver title, which places them right on the cusp of a world title challenge.

Daniel Dubois has a piece of the action at heavyweight with his IBF Interim world title, plus Hamzah Sheeraz was successful in his WBC final eliminator for the world middleweight title. In addition to this, Moses Itauma seized his first championship belt – the WBO Intercontinental title in just his ninth fight as a pro at the age of 19.

So we haven’t had a bad couple of weeks on the title front, which is the result of investing, yes, money, but mostly time in our young fighters and steering them through our tried and trusted development process.

Success in this sport doesn’t happen by accident and I am happy to report that we have many, many more richly talented young fighters coming up through the system that we have very high hopes for.

It does require patience and you have to put your tin hat on at times when some critics question the level of opponents or mock the winning of international titles. It is also putting on shows at locations such as York Hall or Telford, for example, that allows us to build young fighters and give the experience they need before taking on bigger challenges at the more fashionable arenas.

Without their international ranking belts, Nick Ball wouldn’t have been in position for successive world title shots, Mark Chamberlain would be miles off thinking about a world title, as would Hamzah Sheeraz and I could go on and on.

Boxing is a sport where a route to the top has to be successfully navigated and we certainly know what we are doing in this respect and will continue pushing all our fighters towards the ultimate prize when the timing is right.

Getting back to Riyadh, it was Willy Hutchinson who got us off to a flyer with his convincing decision victory over Craig Richards. I know many people had Craig down as a strong favourite, but I felt all along that this was the ideal fight for Willy.

With his recent successes – and his WBC International title – Willy has been telling anyone who will listen how he is ready to trade with the likes of Buatsi, Yarde or Azeez. This being the case, a fight with Craig made perfect sense, one where he could prove himself against someone who has been in with the top boys.

He did himself and us proud, but I must add what a smashing fella Craig is and I also met his mum and he comes from a lovely family. I wish him all the best for the future.

On the subject of pride, I couldn’t have been more proud of Nick Ball, who pushed himself to the absolute limit to get the better of Ray Ford, who is a terrific fighter and I am sure he will replicate his world title success at super feather.

Nick was up against someone with lightning fast hand speed and he really had to dig deep to hustle Ford out of his stride and push him back to do his own best work. How he manages to do this for 12 rounds I will never know. His energy levels are incredible and he possesses that steely resolve to go with it.

I must also pay tribute to Paul Stevenson, the coach and mentor at the Everton Red Triangle gym, who works so hard and effectively with his team of fighters. Paul isn’t one of these trainers who recruits top prospects, he develops them himself from the amateur section at the gym and nurtures them into champions. My congratulations to him for becoming a world champion trainer.

I hope it won’t be too long before we are celebrating another world champion in Hamzah Sheeraz, who was sensational in his defeat of the very capable Austin Williams.

It was a proper test for Hamzah and he was wobbled in the second round. He did everything right to recover his poise and then established domination in the fight to ultimately reap maximum points and book himself a shot at the WBC title.

I don’t need to go on too much more about Hamzah because everyone knows how highly I think about him and I was proud to have him leading our team on Saturday.

Daniel Dubois once again confounded his critics with a magnificent dismantling of the previously undefeated Olympian Filip Hrgovic.

Once Daniel gets into his stride he really does take some stopping and Hrgovic had no answers to his relentless aggression. He is really on track now and I am so happy for him. Due praise for Daniel once again becoming a significant threat in the heavyweight division must go to Don Charles, the hugely experienced trainer, who has established such a strong rapport with his young charge.

The fights are going to keep getting bigger and bigger.

Talking of big, our man Big Bang delivered the goods to cap off a memorable night by overwhelming Deontay Wilder. Zhilei Zhang is a top bloke and he really immersed himself in the team environment.

He is also very much back in business and I am looking forward to plotting his next move.


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